Some Notes On the Fellowship In Europe

Euro Prayer Breakfast

The Republic of Macedonia’s ePublika reports on the latest news about its Ambassador in the USA, Zoran Jolevski:

Ambassador Jolevski attends a business lunch in his honor in the Congress, hosted by Congressman Robert Aderholt, member of the Defense Committee to inform the Congress representatives on his new assignment as a Defense Minister…

Ambassador Jolevski, who has been Macedonia’s representative in Washington since 2007 and is a representative in the name dispute negotiations, returns to Skopje soon.

Jolevski first caught my attention a couple of days ago, when I noted his association with this year’s National Day of Prayer event in Washington – he co-led a “Prayer for the Nations” segment – and his friendship with Bill Hightower, a recently-elected member of the Alabama legislature.

The National Day of Prayer, while supposedly bipartisan, is a platform for the religious right: this year’s event saw Shirley Dobson denounce Obama as “the abortion President”, prompting a Democrat participant to walk out. Hightower, however, is involved with a rather more subtle manifestation of religious power in the USA: this is the National Prayer Breakfast, which is organised by a discrete but influential group called the Fellowship (aka the “Family”). A few days ago, Hightower took part in a related Prayer Breakfast in Ukraine, alongside Doug Burleigh, who is son-in-law to the Fellowship’s leader, Doug Coe.

This brings us back to Jolevski, and his business lunch hosted by Robert Aderholt; a 2010 report from Roll Call (“The source for news on Capitol Hill since 1955”) notes (link added):

A handful of Members of Congress have accepted more than $100,000 worth of free international travel from the religious organization affiliated with the “C Street house,” a Capitol Hill townhouse linked to recent Congressional sex scandals.

While most of the Members have taken a trip or two from the Fellowship Foundation, also known as the International Foundation, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) accepted foreign trips worth more than $50,000 over the past four years.

…For example, last month Aderholt spent a week in Greece, Albania and Croatia on a trip funded by the Fellowship Foundation at a cost of about $11,000… Aderholt arrived in Greece in time for the closing of the annual Southeast European Gathering, a Balkan version of the National Prayer Breakfast that he has attended several times on the foundation’s dime.

When I wrote about the Prayer Breakfast in Ukraine, I noted the presence of a participant named Paul Petrie, but I overlooked his significance; a one-post blog by Leo van Doesburg, an activist with the European Christian Political Movement (more on the ECPM here) noted at the end of 2008:

…In December the European Prayer Breakfast organized their annual event in the European Parliament. I had such a great collaboration with the organizors: Paul Petrie and Mary van Kesteren. In this way we could invite key people from the different regions in East Europe to the conference. Also the Dutch vice prime minister, Andre Rouvoet his political assistant, Reinier Koppelaar and MP Esme Wiegman joined the events.

(Van Doesburg also recalled taking part in an “International Leadership conference and Youth Leadership Forum in Skopje organized by the Boris Trajkovski foundation”; Hightower is also involved with this foundation, which is named after a former president on Macedonia who was killed in a plane crash while in office in 2004.)

Petrie is a Canadian living in Brussels; according to his website:

 …He serves a number of European and American organizations in leadership and consultancy capacities. He is an active public speaker, strategist, and mentor in both public and private institutions in Europe and the United States.

According to a bio page on the site, he started out working with Nicky Cruz’s Teen Challenge drug rehabilitation programme in New York in 1966, then founded his own programme in Lexington. A rather diverse career followed, including worldwide travel, a ranch in Zaire, founding a Christian community back in Lexington, and creating “International Outreach Ministries, a Non-Governmental Organization, which now works in 22 nations”. Further (links added):

In 1986 Mr. Petrie and his family moved to Brussels, Belgium, and helped found the organization “a.net” to serve both Belgian and expatriates living there. In the same year Mr. Petrie helped found the Association of Covenant Ministries in North America.

In 1996 Mr. Petrie, with a small group of like-minded professionals, founded the European Prayer Breakfast, which serves Members of the European Parliament, Commission, NATO and the diplomatic corps in Brussels. That same year, in conjunction with a European Parliamentarian, he facilitated gatherings at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg with the same goals. This has led to wide involvement with members of European governments, within and beyond the European Union.

In 2002 Mr. Petrie became foundationally associated with the Middle East Program, an initiative to develop relationships in the Middle East that will promote greater stability and peace in the region.

(Hightower is also involved with the Middle East Program, and he sits on the board of a school called Covenant Christian School.)

The European Prayer Breakfast has a website here; its appearance is bland, and its blurb is instantly recognisable as “Jesus Plus Nothing” Fellowship-speak:

As we look at Jesus of Nazareth and the principles which He taught and by which He lived, we see around Him a group of people He called friends who were central to His life. They had a commitment to each other and to a message which revolutionized the world. These principles hinged on two basic premises: to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus said that all other things hung on the framework of these two commands. This is a simple equation but has amazing power to change the world in which we live. The European Prayer Breakfast (EPB) was established in 1998 on these ideas.

This annual event is a facilitator for such a philosophy. It is a meeting place where people can come together and encourage each other to seek relationships which are focused around Jesus and his teachings…

There’s also a page entitled “The Strategy of Jesus”, consisting of a long quote from Elton Trueblood’s Alternative to Futility:

Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of His redemptive, reconciling work after the close of His earthly existence, and His chosen method was the formation of a small band of committed friends. He did not form an army, establish a headquarters, or even write a book. What He did was to collect a very few common men and women, inspire them with the sense of His spirit and vision, and build their lives into an intensive fellowship of affection, worship, and work…

That was written in 1948, and it shows: Jesus is the ultimate self-promoting brand, working through a Rotary Club of networkers. The Babbitt cult lives on. Jeff Sharlet has the background, in his book The Family (p. 186):

One Abram [Vereide] understudy, Dr. Elton Trueblood, made a career of packaging militant fundamentalism in the language of country club banal, churning out best sellers that conflated spiritual war with Cold War; he also drew a paycheck from from the United States Information Agency, for which he headed up the Office of Religious Information. On his watch “spiritual roots” – Christian ones, that is – as the foundation of American democracy became government policy, channeled through private organizations so that the office’s plans would not look like a “propaganda gimmick”.

Documents relating to the 2006 and 2009 European Prayer Breakfasts (including a letter of greeting from Yulia Tymoshenko as Prime Minister of Ukraine in 2009) have for some reason been posted to the website of Romania’s Parliament.

Further details on the European Prayer Breakfast appear in a 2007 book by Terry Wynn, a British MEP and a working-class Christian Socialist. The book, entitled Where are the Prophets?: A Book About Faith and Politics, comes with a blurb by Hightower (this was when he was the head of Tower Strategies Inc, rather than an elected official) and a Foreword by Chris Patten. Wynn became involved following an invitation from Petrie, and he writes:

Each year in the Parliament there is a European Prayer Breakfast, where two to three hundred parliamentarians from across Europe, ambassadors, NATO staff, civil servants from the EU institutions and others, meet together in Brussels. It’s not an easy event to organise and every time someone in Parliament’s administration always tries to put a spanner in the works either because of security reasons or sound system problems but each year it goes off successfully. It is a wonderful occasion and it is good to meet with Christians from across Europe in this way. It always has good music, good fellowship, good food and good contributions from those who read and speak. I’m sure it scares the pants off the secularists.

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